“My association with Midland College began in August 2008,” explained Heather Sanders.
“My family had just moved to Midland. My three children had started school. So, I
decided to enroll at Midland College. I had already taken some college courses at
OSU [Oklahoma State University] before starting my family, and I decided it was time
to get some type of higher education credential.”
Sanders grew up and graduated from high school in Cleveland, OK, a small community
of approximately 3,500 people in northeastern Oklahoma.
“Cleveland was a great place to grow up,” reminisces Sanders. “When I was in high
school I was in the Vocational Office Education program, and I liked working with
computers. After high school graduation, I worked for an Electronic Data Interchange
consultant, and she taught me even more about computers, especially databases. I guess
she was impressed with my abilities, and she sent me to OSU. It’s funny because, at
the time, the last thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life was to work with computers.
I love plants, and what I wanted to do for a career was horticulture or landscape
While she was at OSU, Sanders and her husband Jason learned that they were going to
have a baby, so Sanders dropped out of school. The family continued to grow, and
in addition to caring for her three small children, Heather also helped Jason with
his concrete ready mix company.
In March 2008, Jason had a career opportunity in West Texas, so the family relocated
to Midland, and Heather found Midland College (MC).
In May 2009, Sanders graduated from Midland College with an Associate of Arts degree
in Teaching. She then enrolled in courses at the University of Texas, Permian Basin
(UTPB) and excelled in the university’s Computer Science program. While still taking
classes at UTPB, Sanders was employed as a supplemental instructor and tutored other
computer science students. She said that she found that she loved teaching adults.
Sanders graduated Summa Cum Laude from UTPB in 2011 and was given the honor of being
named the Outstanding Computer Science graduate.
“By the time I got my bachelor’s degree at UTPB, I had decided that a career in the
computer field was in my future, but I still didn’t want to sit behind a desk all
day,” stated Sanders. “I love solving problems using the computer. Sometimes when
I can’t figure out the answer to a problem, I just ‘sleep on it,’ and I guess something
triggers in my unconscious mind while I’m sleeping. The next day, the answer suddenly
comes to me.
“In 2012, I saw a job posting at Midland College for a teaching position and thought
that teaching computer skills would be a great way to combine my affinity for computers
with my love of teaching adults.”
Since that time, Sanders has not only taught in MC’s Computer Science, Information
Technology and Business Systems programs, but has also taught developmental math courses,
college preparatory courses and occasionally teaches computer courses for the Workforce
Continuing Education department.
Sanders’ love of teaching and genuine interest in her students’ success is apparent
by the attention she gives her students in and out of the classroom.
“I have what I call ‘grand students,’” said Sanders. “These are the children of the
students I have had in class. A student who was in one of my college prep courses
about three years ago became pregnant, and I helped her through that time in her life
and transition into adulthood. When her daughter was born, I would visit her and take
care of her at times when her mom couldn’t find a sitter.”
Diana is another student who views Sanders as an important influence in her life.
“Diana was getting married and wanted me to attend the wedding,” explained Sanders.
“Of course, I was delighted to be included thinking that the wedding would be in Midland.
However, I soon found out that Diana was planning the wedding in Mexico, and I told
her that I couldn’t go to Mexico. Diana moved the location to Midland, so I could
attend. After the wedding, when the photographer was taking pictures of the wedding
party and the family, Diana specifically asked for me to be included in the pictures.”
Sanders said that she enjoys staying busy and working on college committees and other
projects. She is a member of MC’s Quality Enhancement Plan committee and the Curriculum
committee. She has served on the committee that rewrote MC’s mission statement, and
she helps with the college website.
She is active in the Professional Petroleum Data Management organization and serves
on the Midland Permian Basin Leadership team of that organization.
In her spare time, Sanders still enjoys gardening. She has a flower garden at her
home in Greenwood and also has a few hydroponic plants growing in her MC office.
Heather and Jason have now been married for 24 years. Their son Jesse (23) was a member
of the first Early College High School at Midland College graduating class and is
now a mechanical engineer. Her son Matthew is 20; and her daughter Emma (17) will
be a senior at Greenwood High School. Heather and Emma love to travel. Recent trips
include Europe, the Northeastern U.S., and the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.
During the past seven years at MC, Heather has also completed an online master’s degree
in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. Today, in addition to teaching
at MC, she is also department chair of Computer Information Systems (CIS), a position
she has held for the past year. In this capacity, she administers the Computer Science,
Business Systems and Information Technology programs.
“The CIS department was created last year,” said Sanders. “I’m the first department
chair. The three programs that comprise the department are all different, but the
curriculum in each area is heavily focused on computers. Business Systems prepares
students for administrative support positions; Computer Science prepares students
to go into database programming; and Information Technology includes networking administration
and security. The Information Technology program is proud to be a CompTIA Authorized
Academy as well as a Cisco Networking Academy.”
Before Sanders assumed the position as department chair, all three programs were individual,
autonomous departments with separate classrooms and labs. Sanders has been instrumental
in having faculty and students in the three areas work more closely together. There
is now just one computer lab shared by all three programs, in which students can interact
with those in other programs. She is also proud of the fact that the college now boasts
a 100 percent pass rate for the CompTIA Fundamentals certification exam, an industry
standard for graduates of the Information Technology program. Recently the Midland
College CIS department was accepted into the Convergence College Network, which will
connect department faculty to a wealth of resources to enhance programming. Sanders’
future plans for the department include implementing Computer Science dual credit
courses for the 2020-2021 academic year.